While search is the “front door to the internet” on the PC, the same cannot be said of mobile devices. Apps, bookmarks and other ways to access content have become at least as useful as the Google search box on a mobile device. While Google will laugh at anyone who publicly tries to suggest (as I have) that search may not turn out to play as central a role in mobile as it does on the desktop, Google’s actions suggest that they’re hedging their bets and may not think I’m entirely crazy. Search on a mobile device is getting better and more usable; but “10 blue links” doesn’t work — on even a smartphone handset.
In recognition of the challenge of keying in queries and sifting through links, Google has moved voice to the forefront as a search interface. It has also integrated alternative ways (read: browse nearby) to get to local content, which account for the capabilities and limitations of the device:
Android devices have both a search button on the hardware and a big search field on the home screen. That prompts users to search more frequently but has still not made search quite as useful on the mobile handset. Now Google has introduced what it’s calling “Quick Search Box.” Similar to Apple’s Spotlight on the iPhone, it enables users to retrieve contacts, email and apps. But it moves beyond Spotlight in fetching content from the internet without launching a browser. It also enables users to get content within apps, also unlike the iPhone.
The new functionality dramatically improves the utility of the search box on Android handsets (maybe at the expense of apps). Quick Search Box thus makes it more likely that you’ll use search for more things, reinforcing the behavior.
Google mobile advertising revenues depend largely on Google establishing search as a primary tool and use case, and not letting that behavior spread to a bunch of pesky apps instead. By making search more useful and more of an all-purpose tool on Android, not just about the mobile internet, Google moves closer to accomplishing that goal.